Haines High School’s basketball squads opened conference play last weekend, and each had at least one game that wasn’t decided until the final minute.

The Glacier Bear boys generated the most thrilling contest on Friday at home against the Metlakatla Chiefs. Haines posted a 22-point fourth-quarter to nearly double its point total from the previous three quarters. That helped the team erase the 32-23 deficit it faced heading into the final frame.

Junior Jordan Badger hit two 3-pointers in the fourth, including one that gave the Glacier Bears a 44-41 lead. Metlakatla responded with a three-point play to tie it up, and then regained the lead on another bucket following a Haines free throw.

Coach Steve Fossman called two timeouts on the team’s final possession, trailing 46-45. Senior Justin Swinton, who poured in 19 points on the night, drove to the basket with 6 seconds remaining and got a mid-range shot off near the baseline. The shot rattled around inside the rim and then popped out, and Metlakatla escaped with a one-point victory.

Fossman said Swinton is a player he has “a lot of confidence in, to get to the rim,” and said Swinton was able to take “a nice shot, given the situation.”

“We thought we’d get a look at Justin driving a seam against a zone, which had been there before,” Fossman said.

Swinton and Badger drained two 3-pointers each. Badger was the team’s second-leading scorer, with 7 points, followed by senior Chevy Fowler, 6; senior Isaac Wing, 5; senior Kai Sato-Franks, 4; and seniors James Morgan and Chris Turner, 2.

Metlakatla was a state runner-up last season, but Fossman said he “wasn’t surprised” Haines stayed close until the buzzer.

“I figured if we did a good job defensively and got out and tried to make them run – we’d have to make some shots, obviously – we could hang with them,” he said.

Fossman said the addition of a post player on Metlakatla’s roster Saturday “added another dimension to their team,” as the visitors kept pounding the ball inside on their way to a 52-34 win.

Swinton again was the top scorer for Haines, with 11 points. Fowler followed with 10; Sato-Franks, 5; Badger, 3; Morgan and Turner, 2; and sophomore Matthew Green, 1.

Fowler had 8 points in the first half, and Fossman noted the senior played solid defense throughout the weekend.

Prior to the varsity games each night, the Glacier Bear junior varsity and a Haines junior high team split a pair of match-ups. The junior high picked up the first win, 29-18, and the JV rebounded to take a 28-27 win the second night, relying more heavily on a zone defense.

“It was really good for both teams,” Fossman said.

The Haines girls started conference play at Metlakatla, and had a slow start in their first game, falling 41-22. The Glacier Bears trailed 20-4 at halftime.

“We had a rough travel day,” said coach Brian Elliott. “We came in there pretty tired and worn out.”

He said Metlakatla scored several transition baskets, which were especially problematic because “that’s one of the things that we feel we do well.”

Senior Libby Jacobson scored 8 points; junior Celia Bower, 6; sophomore Kayley Swinton, 4; and senior Grace Jones and sophomore Destinee Cowart, 2. Jacobson had two 3-pointers.

Elliott said the team had a good locker-room talk following the game, and their “overall mental approach was a lot better” for the second match-up with Metlakatla.

“Against that team, a good point of emphasis was to use our size and get the ball down low,” he said.

Saturday, Haines missed a 3-pointer that would have tied the score in the final seconds, and Metlakatla drained two free throws to push the winning margin to five points, 39-34.

Jones tallied 12 points; Bower, 9; Swinton, 7; and Cowart and seniors Serena Badgley and Jamie Messerschmidt, 2. Elliott noted Bower sunk a buzzer-beater from around half-court at the end of the third quarter.

He said the Glacier Bears gained confidence and much-needed experience during the series.

“This is a team that’s learning how to play together,” he said. “That’s something we’ll develop over the next two months.”

The girls will host defending state champion Craig this weekend.

The Panthers, who competed with a bare-bones roster last season, are expected to bring a JV squad this time, as well, Elliott said.

The Haines boys aren’t scheduled to face Craig until next week, when they’ll combine that series with a trip to Wrangell.